Grilled stuffed pork chops
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40 tailgate-inspired recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

Grilled stuffed pork chops

Stuff thick, center-cut bone-in pork chops with goat cheese flavored with roasted garlic, spinach, and chopped fresh thyme and rosemary up to several hours ahead of time, then grill to order. Recipe: Grilled stuffed pork chops

 (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Midnight chocolate brownie bites

These fabulous brownies start with a deliciously dense combination of bittersweet chocolate, dark cocoa and mini chocolate chips, then adds a bright flash of citrus from orange liqueur and peel. Recipe: Midnight chocolate brownie bites

 (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)
A must where tortilla chips are involved, guacamole is nothing more than a finely tuned blend of mashed avocado, cilantro, tomato, onion, lime juice, chiles and salt. Add a little garlic or cumin if desired. Click here for the recipe. (Eric Boyd / Los Angeles Times)

Simmer fresh brats over the grill in a deep pan filled with butter, sliced onion and beer, then grill to order. It’s heaven on a roll piled high with sauerkraut, mustard and pickles. Recipe: Bratwurst

 (Gary Friedman / Los AngelesTimes)
Square One brown-butter coffeecake
Coffeecake is always a good choice when the games are early and you’re too tired to cook. This cake gets its richness from browned butter, sugar and toasty pecans. Click here for the recipe. (Eric Boyd / Los Angeles Times)
Hickory-smoked baby back ribs

Massage a rack of ribs with a prepared spice mix or your own secret blend of brown sugar, paprika, garlic, celery salt, chile powder, cumin and oregano. Slow-smoke over hickory for extra flavor, and cook the ribs until they’re falling-off-the-bone tender. Make them ahead of time, if you’d like, then reheat over the grill before divvying them up. Recipe: Hickory-smoked baby back ribs

 (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Zucchini, feta and basil frittata
Not just for breakfast, frittatas are great served any time of the day. Combine grated zucchini with rich crumbled feta cheese and fragrant basil in this variation. This is one dish that can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature. Click here for the recipe. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Celery root and apple slaw

Thinly sliced celery root and apple are tossed with toasted pecans and currants. Whisk together sour cream with a touch of prepared horseradish and Dijon mustard for a tangy dressing. Recipe: Celery root and apple slaw

 (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Chicken and apple sausage
Ground chicken is flavored with fresh sage, dried apples, onions and a fragrant touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Grill or saute the patties, then serve in an English muffin as “breakfast burgers.” Click here for the recipe. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Milk’s ooey-gooey double-chocolate cookies

Have plenty of napkins at the ready for this recipe. Three types of chocolate are folded into this rich cookie dough, which is baked just long enough for each cookie to set up on the outside while remaining oh so “ooey-gooey” inside. Messy? Yes, but perfectly so. Recipe: Milk’s ooey-gooey double-chocolate cookies

 (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Julienne’s graham cracker chewy bars

Adapted from “Celebrating With Julienne” by Susan Campoy, who writes, “I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite books, ‘Nantucket Open-House Cookbook,’ by Sarah Leah Chase. I love watching people’s expressions when they bite into these bars for the first time. The textures and flavors -- rich toffee, a chewy center and a crunchy bottom -- make everyone smile. The secret is not to over-bake the crust. Serve them at room temperature, so the flavors meld together.” Recipe: Julienne’s graham cracker chewy bars

 (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

For a perfect portable meal, pile a hollowed-out loaf of bread with purchased or homemade olive relish, lettuce, cheese and sliced meats, then wrap and weight the sandwich at least a few hours to compress. Unwrap and slice to serve. Recipe: Muffuletta

 (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Roasted potato salad with bacon

Roasting potatoes concentrates their earthy flavor in this salad, bound with a red wine vinegar-brightened mayonnaise dressing and tossed with crisp bacon bits, capers and sliced red onion. Recipe: Roasted potato salad with bacon

 (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Carne asada

Blend together a bunch of cilantro, a little garlic, onion, serrano chile, salt and a touch of Worcestershire sauce. Rub the marinade over skirt steak and marinate an hour, up to several, before grilling. Recipe: Carne asada

 (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Clementine’s butterscotch brownies

Tender, rich and temptingly sweet, Clementine’s butterscotch brownies balance that brown-sugary goodness with a nice hint of salt to make this the perfect treat for almost any occasion. Recipe: Clementine’s butterscotch brownies

 (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Watermelon with mint and lime
A refreshing -- and refreshingly simple -- salad, watermelon cubes are tossed with chopped fresh mint, a touch of olive oil and lime juice. It’s best chilled at least one hour before serving. Click here for the recipe. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Caribbean jerk chicken

Sweet, tangy and spicy, that first bite of chicken is sure to give your head a good jerk. Combine a blend of allspice, cinnamon, sugar, habanero peppers, garlic, ginger, lime and a touch of dark rum, and marinate the chicken up to 24 hours before grilling. Recipe: Caribbean jerk chicken

 (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Bowl of red chili
This bowl of red is a meat-lover’s chili -- no beans allowed. Several pounds of cubed chuck roast are slow-simmered with bacon, spices, dried chiles, onion, garlic and tomatoes. Add some beer to lift the flavors and cook until the meat is tender. You can serve it right away, but like most soups and stews, this chili improves overnight in the fridge. Click here for the recipe. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

A classic Southwestern blend of stewed vegetables including zucchini, tomatoes and corn, this colorful dish is flavored with onion, garlic and a touch of diced jalapeno. Cook it in a pan, or combine everything in a foil packet to steam over the grill. Drizzle crumbled fresh cheese over the dish before serving. Recipe: Calabacitas

 (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Bell pepper and corn slaw

Slice a colorful assortment of bell peppers into thin strips and toss with fresh corn and a quick dressing of lemon juice, garlic, oil, agave syrup and a touch of chipotle pepper. Recipe: Bell pepper and corn slaw

 (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Southern pimiento cheese appetizer

A southern classic, this recipe from Magnolias in Charleston, South Carolina, features game-day must-haves: peppers, olives and, of course, cheese. Recipe: Southern pimiento cheese appetizer 

 (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Bacon and cherry tomatoes
It doesn’t get much more fun than grilled food on a stick. Ahead of time, skewer bites of pork belly, peppers, chicken, mushrooms -- even tomatoes wrapped in bacon (above) -- on soaked wooden skewers, then grill to order. Click here for the recipe. (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)
Beer brittle

Now you can drink your beer and eat it, too. Flavor crunchy brittle with a good dark beer -- such as a stout or amber ale -- for rich caramel notes. Recipe: Beer brittle

 (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

Stuff grape leaves with a fragrant blend of rice, pine nuts, lemon zest and fresh herbs, then wrap them up like little burritos. Pack the dolmas in tight layers in a cassserole and slowly simmer them to tenderness in a broth of lemon juice, oil and water. Recipe: Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

 (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Bistecca fiorentina (Tuscan steak)

For a good meal and a great show, grill a massive porterhouse steak on its sides for a few minutes, then set it up vertically on the grill (balanced on the T-bone) to cook through. Season this baby simply with coarse salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Recipe: Bistecca fiorentina (Tuscan Steak)

 (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Nancy’s burgers

A tailgate classic. Simply season ground beef with a little kosher salt and pepper, careful not to overwork the meat, then divide and shape into 8-ounce patties. Offer a selection of cheeses and toppings, and perhaps a flavored mayonnaise or two. Recipe: Nancy’s burgers

 (Beatrice de Gea / Los Angeles Times)
Maple-bourbon hot-smoked pork belly

It’s basically hot-smoked bacon: Marinate pork belly in a simple brine with maple syrup and a little bourbon for a few days in the fridge. Then gently smoke the pork belly over apple wood for about an hour, until it is tender and the smoke has had a chance to infuse its flavor. Recipe: Maple-bourbon hot-smoked pork belly

 (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Three-bean and hominy chili

Black, pinto and kidney beans are slow-cooked with hominy and tomato in a rich chili flavored with garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. It’s so filling your guests might never guess it’s vegetarian. Recipe: Three-bean and hominy chili

 (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Black beans

Black beans are slow-cooked, flavored with a smoked ham hock, some onion and a touch of garlic. Add chopped tomatoes toward the end to give these richly flavored beans some bright notes before serving. Recipe: Black beans

 (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Grilled pork steaks with fennel

Slice a pork roast crosswise into steaks and dust each with a blend of ground fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt. Grill for a few minutes on each side over a hot fire. Recipe: Grilled pork steaks with fennel

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Zucchini slaw

Zucchini are great cooked, but they can be just as wonderful raw -- light and crisp with delicate flavor. Shred a couple (or more) pounds of zucchini, and dress it with a light sherry vinaigrette (it’s a bright vinegar with a lighter flavor that won’t overpower the zucchini). Add some diced tomato. Not only is this dish’s color vivid, but the soft tomato really emphasizes the crispness of the zucchini. And it’s perfect served simply, with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and fresh-shaved Parmigiano. Recipe: Zucchini slaw

 (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Bacon-wrapped pork belly
Braised pork belly lovingly wrapped in bacon and cooked until crisp. Could it possibly get any better? Click here for the recipe. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Fennel and white bean salad

Toss drained white beans with thinly-sliced fennel, crisp bacon, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil and a dash of hot sauce in this full-flavored yet simple salad. Recipe: Fennel and white bean salad

 (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
Apple bacon coffeecake
If there’s one meal where bacon shines, it’s on the breakfast plate. This apple bacon coffeecake starts with a cinnamon roll-type dough filled with sautéed apples and crisp bacon bits. Serve it warm or room temperature, topped with a rich glaze and toasted almonds. Click here for the recipe. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Thai coconut chicken

Fix a fresh marinade with notes of garlic, ginger, cilantro, basil, lemongrass, lime, brown sugar and coconut milk and combine with fresh chicken in a sealable bag. Marinate up to 24 hours before grilling. Recipe: Thai coconut chicken

 (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Sure you can buy them, but bagels can be fun to make, and nothing beats the flavor of homemade. Add whatever topping you like to vary up the flavor. Click here for the recipe. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Black bean hummus

Move beyond standard hummus with this variation on the classic dip. Blend together black beans and chickpeas with garlic, lemon and tahini paste, and spice it with a little cayenne and cumin powder. This dip can be made up to a few days in advance. Recipe: Black bean hummus

 (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Maple bacon biscuits
Make these light and flaky biscuits ahead of time, flavoring the dough with maple syrup and crumbled bacon. Better make a double-batch -- these babies go quickly! Click here for the recipe. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Avocado corn relish
Combine sauteed corn with avocado, green onion, bell pepper, roasted chiles, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Set aside to marry the flavors and serve at room temperature alongside steak or grilled meats. Click here for the recipe. (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)
Mediterranean balsamic chicken

For a flavorful Mediterranean marinade, combine equal parts balsamic vinegar with olive oil in a large bowl, then whisk in a little mustard. Taste, then maybe bump up the acidity with some lemon juice and zest, and whisk in a little chopped rosemary and garlic. If you want, add some chopped chives, capers and onion -- they’re ingredients you might normally throw in a salad and will work wonders flavoring the dish. Recipe: Mediterranean balsamic chicken

 (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)